|© Carrie Boyko|
Tanner Tackles his Gator Toy
This is the time when Mama gator becomes highly protective, aggressive and will stick much closer to home. Mom's nest, built of vegetation, will range from 7 to 10 feet in diameter and is often as high as 3 feet tall. These nests will be hidden in marshy areas along the water's edge and may contain 35 to 50 eggs, sometimes much more.
We are now approaching the time when female gators begin building and tending to these nests, covering them carefully with additional vegetation for security as they incubate for 65 days after laying. As this period comes to an end in late August, hatching occurs following a lot of high-pitched noises from inside the eggs. The babies alert mom to remove the nesting material for them to make their appearance.
When baby gators first hatch they are less than 8 inches in length, with nearly 80 percent falling victim to other predators as a result. Because of these huge odds against survival, mama gator is quite protective and highly aggressive during this time. Dog walks along fresh waterways in the south should be done with extreme care during mating, nesting and hatching seasons. NEVER ever do the leash-free thing in freshwater areas that you are not well-acquainted with.
Baby gators grow about a foot a year and do not reach sexual maturity until about their 6th year. The youngster will generally be watched over and remain closeby its 'pod' or family until it reaches at least 4 feet in length. At this point it is considered safe from most natural predators. American gators live about 50 years and can grow to lengths of 8 to 11 feet, while weighing nearly half a ton.
You can read more at my final article, focusing on how you can save yourself, and possibly Fido too, in the event of an alligator attack.
Sources: www.LakeOkeechobee.org, www.nationalzoo.si.edu